Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Nice touch, Platinum.


A little less than half of all North American households have HDTVs in them - like mine, up 'till this year - and that's often created a sticky issue with HD consoles. The classic example of this is the text in Dead Rising - near unreadable on an SD set. It's one of those things you just kinda' get used to, but it's lovely that Platinum Games addresses the issue most developers ignore with Vanquish.

In the options menu of the demo (available now on XBL and PSN - gogogo!) you'll find an option for SD Mode, which enlarges all the text in the game to sizes that are apparently readable on your old fashioned standard-def TVs. Well done, Platinum!

...it occurs to me, though, when 90% of households have HDTVs, won't HD be the new "standard" definition? I wonder how long Samsung and Sony will wait to start trying to sell us UltraHD?

Valkyria Chronicles II multiplayer interview.

Let's begin with the important bit.

When Valkyria Chronicles was release a (ahem) vocal few were shouting from the rooftops, "try this game! It's frickin' amazing!" It didn't sell very well. But six months after release, the game was still sort of trucking along in North America - internet buzz among gamer communities and the undying support of those who fell in love with it early gave the title a second life at retail - and today on the PlayStation Blog Sega's Aaron Webber gives us props:
The game didn't have a stellar launch, like it did okay. The game wasn't huge, and then a year later when that DLC comes out and the fans are sort of evangelizing and saying 'this game is amazing, you guys have to try it," and then suddenly we see a massive spike in sales where they almost jumped back up to the original launch numbers, which never happens in the gaming industry.

It was a good moment to see what the fans can do to support a franchise.
Yes it was. Let's do it again with VCII, shall we? Here's the multiplayer interview.

Take THAT, August!


I kicked August's ass. By that I mean I exceeded a hundred posts for the first time ever (in a month which didn't include E3),wrote six feature articles and five reviews.

That's gotta' be a record for the number of records I've set on The Games of Chance in a single month. And that's not counting today! And Valkyria Chronicles II drops today! And the Vanquish demo! Horaays all around.

If you don't feel like scrolling down a list of over a hundred posts to find what I'm talking about, here's this month's features and reviews:

FEATURES


The Games Of August 2010.
(Notable games to release this month.)

Where's the hate?

(Do I devalue my opinion by being too positive?)

The Monthly Hate: motion controls.

(This is me trying to be less positive.)

Nerd Debate! Subs vs. dubs.

(Which is better for your anime-viewing needs?)

Okay, we need to have a talk.

(Because you need to consider Siren: Blood Curse.)

Confession time.

(I buy manga and like Azumanga Daioh.)



REVIEWS

DeathSpank

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game


Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands

Bionic Commando

Shank


That last review is just below this post! ...so I really didn't need to include a... a link in it, did I? Ah well - perhaps that's the Gamer's Completionism in me.

Yay me! I reviewed four very good but not absolutely fantastic games! And one pretty damn disappointing one.

REVIEW - Shank.


Brock Sampson simulator. Set in a Robert Rodriguez movie. That's Shank.

It is the video game offspring of the recent surge of late-night mature-rated cartoons, born of a generation that grew up watching G-rated shows on Saturday mornings and found they still had an appetite for animation once they breached their teens and became adults.

Somehow, story and action can just be more compelling in two dimensions - and the same applies to "mature" pursuits like choking a giant butcher to death with a chain while torrential gouts of blood fly in all directions. Let's face it - most (certainly not all) video games concern themselves with whacking, shooting, mutilating and in all ways killing things - it might as well be wonderful to look at, as well.


Shank is definitely wonderful to watch. The product of Atomic Betty director Jeffrey Agala (and partner Jamie Cheng), every single action, attack and animation in the title is built to look as striking as possible in its limited 2-D plane, with special attention paid to silhouettes. More than that, the slickly smooth animation is packed with half-second moments of near-stillness to highlight the characters' and enemies' (expressive!) expressions or a particularly cool-looking attack.

It's basically designed to throw a thousand insanely good-looking half-frames at you throughout the course of a level, and it's just delicious that it succeeds in this pursuit. The wonderful muted palette of the backdrops further reinforces the title's cartoon heritage and focuses one's attention on the spectacularly good-looking violence playing out in the foreground.

Visually, Shank is an absolute feast - it's the best-looking PSN title this side of Sony's triple-A full-price games - but I've always been a sucker for 2-D animation.


The cutscenes maintain the standard set with the gameplay - expressive, darkly funny and showcasing the kind of bloody violence North American cartoons didn't often attempt before the turn of the century - but you may have noted that I've only been talking about visuals so far. The rest of the presentation department is a bit of a mixed bag.

I like the voice work, I like the writing and I like the music - I just don't love any of it as much as the amazing visual style. Sometimes in a cutscene one gets the sense that there are a lot of sound effects that were just never added (perhaps this is a nod to the cheap-looking cinema it styles itself after), and the load times are just atrocious. Honestly, I haven't been this put off by a game's loading time since Portal on the PS3's Orange Box.


I'm of two minds about the gameplay, really. I'm a bit stumped on it. It is either - on the harder setting - a take-no-prisoners, checkpoint-less challenge that harkens back to the supreme difficulty of ye olde Mega Man titles, or a vicious, stupid, cheap game that will fling you down a pit to your death with an errant grenade launched from an enemy you cannot see offscreen, making you start the whole level from scratch.

Perhaps it's both. The gameplay is merely good enough - but often a good challenge - on the normal setting, but doesn't allow the feeling of ultra-efficient badassery the hard mode offers. It is, like classic 2-D hardcore action fare, a title that rewards strategy, memorization and a complete mastery of its mechanics. I like that.

While its harder difficulty can often frustrate, it's also one of those games that's rather inviting to slip into. One can get a little zen while playing Shank - playing at once strategically and thoughtlessly - and I like that too.


While there's a lot to like about Shank - the music, the silly story, the strategic, brutal, zany gameplay - I can only tell you I love the way it looks. I enjoy playing it, but the core of the experience is both too simple and - sometimes - too obtusely complex to give it a whole-hearted stamp of approval.

I enjoy it enough that, having completed the title, having bashed my head against the astoundingly frustrating harder difficulty, I will keep playing it - but at this point I refuse to claim that it may, one day, be regarded as a classic.

It can comfortably hold its head high among this summer's other impressive PSN titles, but like the company it keeps it is only a good, enjoyable example of its genre - not the final word.


THE GOOD
-fantastic character design, incredible animation
-great overall presentation
-a ton of mechanics and abilities to learn
-rather strategic brawling
-comfortable to slip into, like an old pair of jeans
-+ blood
-hey, a co-op campaign!
-on the harder difficulty, it is very rewarding

THE BAD
-on the harder difficulty, it's pretty damned frustrating
-epic load times
-no online for co-op
-on the easier difficulty, combat may seem too simple
-bosses are way too hard before you learn their pattern, and ultra-easy after

THE VERDICT
Shank has some flaws, but the overall package is unique, fun and engaging.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Space to get a little less lonely and a little more Dead ...ly.


We already know Dead Space 2 will have multiplayer, but word is details will emerge in a week or so. Invites to a media event were sent out, and the online component "is said to involve necromorphs, humans, and picking sides, but the details will have to wait."

Malicious trailer & details.

You may recall there was a post back in June entitled "What on Earth is Malicious?" (Malicious is a PSN-only action game from Alvion with lovely art direction.)

Today some new details emerged. Let's start off with a trailer.



To be honest, beyond the art direction this trailer is a bit of a turn-off. It brings to mind other (mindless) Japanese brawlers like Dynasty Warriors or Ninety Nine Nights where you basically just plow through near-endless waves of stock enemies with far-too-simple button-mashy combat.

But

it looks so cool. The player character's got this cloak, y'see,


and the cloak has "the power of the prophets," which means it basically transforms and is put to use in the kicking of butts or protecting its wearer or flying. It's also not linear, allowing you to select whichever mission you choose to tackle next - but this has an impact on how the game will go, as when you defeat a boss you gain some of its power "in the form of a new action."

I still don't know if I really care about this game, but it's pretty - so that's one mark in its favor.

A buncha' high-res screens can be found here.

You hear that, Fezzik? That is the sound of ultimate suffering.

On November 1st 2010 the price of Xbox Live will jump from $50 to $60 for a year-long subscription. People are freaking out over this.

Don't ask me what I think - I don't even have an opinion. But is it true that there's no one-year subscription available in Canada, and we only have the option to buy by the month?

That means if I want a year of XBL, I have to pay a hundred and twenty dollars, as opposed to the sixty bucks everyone else is raging about. That seems obscene - so obscene it's probably not even true - so let's not get ahead of ourselves. What do I know? Not much about XBL.

I'll have to ask Blue.

[update] Blue informs me that a year of XBL in Canada currently runs $69.99 - so in November it'll be at least $80. [update]

Atlus merges with Index Holdings. What will change?

Atlus is one of the awesomest companies to ever awesome - and today it's announced that they will no longer appear on the Japanese stock exchange, and Atlus will no longer exist as a registered company. In terms of business, they will be merged completely with Index Holdings. Back in 2007, multimedia giant Index bought itself a controlling interest in Atlus - essentially, it's been owned by Index for almost four years.

Some folks are rending their hair at this announcement. Surely, the Atlus we know and love is now dead! No more edgy, mature-themed JRPGs! No more lovingly localized eccentric Japanese titles! No more awesome swag!

Those folks need to take a breath.

Read the first paragraph there again. Index has owned Atlus since 2007. What's changed since then? Nothing. If anything, Atlus has improved in almost every facet.

So let's all smooth our hair and look forward to Catherine's inevitable localization.
The Atlus name will continue for both game development and retail sales.
-Kotaku
Nothing's going to change, on our end. Atlus will still be awesome, we'll still call it Atlus - the only difference is now, if you want to buy stock in it, the name on the stock will say Index Holdings.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Platinum'd!

What an awesome ending. I'm putting that in the green text in the review. "Awesome ending."

Confession Time.

or
'Coming to terms with manga.'
or
'The post I had trouble settling on a title for.'
or
'The Point of No Return.'
(which is also the title of a badass Bridget Fonda movie
based on La Femme Nikita)


My younger brother pointed out to me the other day, when I confessed I had engaged in one of the nerdiest pursuits this side of Renaissance Fair attendance, that there's all sorts of nerdy stuff I don't do. I don't play Magic: The Gathering, I don't play D&D or any variation thereof, and I've long since given up my WoW account. Still - it feels as though I've crossed a line, and there's no going back.

On the 12th of August, 2010, I bought my first manga. Oh sure, I'd watched a little anime here and there. I dig me some kung-fu movies, but this was the first time I went out and became one of Those People.

Those People Who Have Mangas. I try to rationalize it. "It has artistic value," I protest!
"...one of the funniest, most adorable manga series I've read."
-Patrick King, Anime Fringe

"....quiet master of the four-panel form..."
"...character-driven writing..."
-Jason Thompson, Manga: The Complete Guide


Azumanga Daioh is a comic-strip style serial that ran for three years in Dengeki Daioh. It's about six highschool girls basically going on about their lives.

I feel this reflects badly on me.

That I like it, that I value it, that I went out and purchased it. It's really good, but that doesn't change the fact that it's about a bunch of highschool girls. That alone makes me... a little embarrassed. It's like trying to describe Let The Right One In to someone - if you just explain the basic story to them, they're gonna' look at you like you're crazy.

But I do love the book. I bought it 'cause I've seen the anime and I loved the anime. Shortly after securing the book, I added the anime to a growing library of titles I feel no similar guilt towards. I can make a sound argument, be it of style, substance, history or even cultural value for every other anime on my shelf. Here's a few of 'em:

I can't say that Azumanga Daioh is a seminal piece that laid the groundwork for action films for years to come, it's not an incredible melange of styles or an epic clash of spirituality and science fiction.

It's really, really cute. It is... supernaturally charming.

Perhaps that's it - that's the way to explain it. It is phenomenal in the ways that the best RPGs are phenomenal. That's a way for me to quantify it - I care about these characters. I care more that Osaka finds her place in the world than I do about Major Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell, than I do about Chihiro in Spirited Away, than I do about Spike in Cowboy Bebop.

So it's fluffy. It's a comedy - it's slice-of-life and it doesn't have anything really compelling or original to say - but it's also engaging.

Charming is the word. It's the best word. Azumanga Daioh will charm the shit out of you.

It did me. So I think I just talked myself into feeling less guilty about AD. Good. I endorse it, I recommend it. If you're in the market for an ultra-endearing comedy, I can suggest no better.

* * *

Having gained a level of comfort with becoming one of Those People Who Have Mangas, I also snagged The Ghost In The Shell last week.

If you're familiar with the film (and serial anime) you'll probably be surprised to discover how much humor there is in the book - and how much of the book is actually reflected in the series, but not the film.

I've not finished it yet, but shortly after I do be prepared for an education on Ghost in the Shell and how you require it, in some form, in your life.

Anyway, back to Azumanga Daioh. This is a side-story to my internal conflict with fluffy adorability...

* * *

So I get the series on DVD, bring it home and what do I discover? It's not a lovely multi-disc case like you get with, well, everything else. It's a big thick case with one peg that you stack every disc on.


Disgusting. Clearly, this required some work. I couldn't have my anime discs sitting on top of other discs! That's the storage solution of the dark ages.

I examined my Blu-ray library. The solution lay with The Lord of the Rings and Fantastic Mr. Fox. Mr. Fox was a three-disc case - a BR, a DVD and a Digital Copy disc.

Fucking digital copy discs. Won't work with my PSP. Goddamnit. Of the two LotR cases, one was a six-disc case (three films, three special features) and one was a (goddamned) three-disc digital copy case.

So here's what I did

Fantastic Mr. Fox on Blu-ray goes into an empty single-disc BR case along with its cover slip. The DVD copy goes into an empty DVD case (so long, 300), gets a printed-out slip and is given to my little brother, who loves all things Wes Anderson. The Digital Copy disc gets burned in a bonfire.


The Lord of the Rings Digital Copy discs also get burned in a bonfire. The three special features discs go into the 3-disc Digital Copy case, the three films go into Fantastic Mr. Fox's case with their original insert, and Azumanga Daioh goes into the six-disc Lord of the Rings Blu-ray case with a printed out slip I assembled from scanning the anime's box art.

So I efficiently culled some offensive digital copy discs from my shelf and secured a nice, comfortable home for my Azumanga Daioh discs.


'Course, now I've got DVDs in a Bluray case.

...which is gonna' bug the crap out of me. But it's certainly the lesser of two evils.

Wicked widget! I think!

It's seemed to me for a while now that The Games of Chance could use some sort of tag thingie - but I didn't want to use one of those boring tags lists. They're so linear.

What I wanted was WP-Cumulus, a wordpress-exclusive mock-3D flash plugin created by Roy Tanck - which of course wasn't designed to work with Blogger.

Well, today I began hunting around again and found a Blogger-friendly port - and now we have the somewhat sparse tag cloud you see at the top of the sidebar. It's sparse, I'm afraid, because it seems if I try to cram too many tags into it, it'll just cough, sputter and die, displaying blank space.

So let's stick with the essentials! Features, reviews, personal notes, game diaries, comics, rumors, drawings, animes, movies and Atlus. I'll also throw tags for notable upcoming titles in there, as I see fit (in this case Vanquish, Enslaved and Dead Space 2).

Of course, it ain't perfect. There are over four hundred and thirty tags on The Games of Chance - some are used only once, and some are typos of other tags - but that's a lot to sort through.

Hopefully my Blogger-cumulus turns out to be handy to a folk or five.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Game Diary: one more thing about Bionic Commando.

Bionic Commando is a bargain-bin title. It's one of these little cheapie games you'll find for a ten-spot (like I did), and will likely pass over because hell, if a game is only worth charging ten bucks for it must not actually be worth the time it takes to play it.

With heavily mixed reviews upon its release - which resulted in abysmal sales and zero word of mouth - it was relegated to The Bin, and there it shall stay.

If you're not up to reading a longish review, here's a short one:

I beat Bionic Commando over two weeks ago, and I'm still playing it.

That's weird, for me. That's telling.

REVIEW - Bionic Commando.


This is the song that plays when you start up GRIN's 2009 reboot. A gentle piano rendition of the classic game's theme song. It speaks so simply, and clearly:
We love Bionic Commando too - and we're gonna' do it justice. Everything will be different, everything will be the same. Press start. Let's begin.
The new Bionic Commando's greatest single flaw in the eyes of critics - and greatest strength in the eyes of yours truly - is that it doesn't try to be anything else. It doesn't fumble its way through an undercooked open-world setting, it doesn't attempt a me-too cover system and it doesn't coddle its players with mechanics that take thirty seconds to learn. It's a linear, skill-based platformer built around a very unique mechanic, combined with your standard third-person shooting and a batshit crazy story.

What's lovely is that last sentence describes Bionic Commando on the NES twenty years ago and on your PS3 and 360 today. GRIN did Bionic Commando justice.

God, I love writing those words - but let's start off with a few things that make easy targets for complaints...


The game takes place in a metropolis struck by disaster - it's a big place, and with the modern era's penchant for sandbox games, one may fall under the mistaken impression that they're free to go wherever they want. You can't. At the top of the above image you'll notice a blue haze - this is radiation - and if Nathan "Rad" Spencer (hah!) spends more than four seconds in it, he's dead and he's going back to the last checkpoint.

Essentially, the game has invisible walls that kill you when you touch them.

In a game that played more slowly - your standard run-and-jump platformer - this wouldn't be an inssue, but in Bionic Commando you are flinging yourself around the environment at breakneck speeds and it's quite easy to throw yourself up or across and into a blue fog the camera didn't let you know was there. Bing - dead - try again. Don't go that way.

I would find this more egregious if the original wasn't so chock-full of insta-kill bottomless pits that served much the same purpose.

The radiation serves two such purposes - it keeps the player on a linear path, and the game must be played with a certain amount of skill to successfully navigate its hazy-blue perils. The threat of near-instant death is always with you, and it is your ability with the titular bionic arm that will keep you alive and doing awesome stuff - which provides an additional measure of thrill to the swing mechanic.


The other problem - which is only a problem if you don't appreciate how tongue-in-cheek the entire affair is - is that at the beginning of Bionic Commando you run through a tutorial that teaches you almost every move you have in the game.

Then you begin the game, and you don't have access to some of those moves. It's been years since Spencer sported his stylin' bionic arm, of course, and he's forgotten a lot of stuff - it takes time for bionics to fully sync with the user, we're told - and he will 'remember' and unlock some key abilities as the story progresses.

Did this affect my enjoyment of the title? No. Is it a problem? No. Will others complain about it, and so it should be addressed? I guess so, sure - but it never bothered me.

I was having too much fun.


Fun really is the name of the game, here. Wisely, GRIN hasn't made a third person shooter where you occasionally use a bionic wire to swing around the game. Like the original, Bionic Commando is a fun, spirited, unique platformer peppered with combat that's pretty damned enjoyable once it opens up.

After taking the time to fully grasp the mechanics of the wire, traversal becomes fun, fast, intuitive and rewarding - like when you base jump into a mile-deep fissure and fire your arm out to slingshot yourself into a horizontal cave, releasing at the precise moment that gives you maximum speed.

Doubly impressive is the fact that the wire itself has substance - you can swing around a tree trunk, for example, and the wire will actually wrap around the object - a nice touch.

The game takes off and truly becomes its own beast when wire actions are combined with combat. Not many shooters give players the ability to throw themselves a hundred feet in three seconds, and Bionic Commando balances your unparalleled motility with squads of heavy machinegun soldiers, vicious snipers and hulking "biomechs" capable of keeping up with your frantic swings to safety.

Hopefully, by the time a Berzerker biomech slams into the ground next to you, you've already got your arm attached to a nearby car to fling at him. When he's down, latch on to a nearby tree and throw yourself away - aiming backwards in midair to carefully place a round from your grenade launcher in the vicinity of its face.

Awesome.


In terms of presentation, Bionic Commando actually -surprisingly - manages to impress a teensy bit with well-designed levels, a technically accomplished engine and a keen eye for offering lovely set pieces. It's not going to go toe-to-toe with Uncharted any time soon - there's not much to exalt, here - but neither is there anything, really, to complain about.

What does deserve exaltation is the music. Rousing, full-bodied orchestral variations of tracks from the classic NES game fill the title, deftly matching the thrill of combat or the soulful awe of a grand vista. I love this game's music - perhaps only because I so adore the original - but with that caveat, the soundtrack is a standout.

The narrative is a double-edged blade. If you can appreciate just how gleefully stupid the original game's story was, you will grin equally at the ridiculous proportions of Bionic Commando's grand tale of idiotic superweapons. If, instead, you see the NES game as an ancient text that spoke of greater truths about the human condition, you may be disappointed to discover a series of hammy, melodramatic and silly cutscenes.

Personally, I found it deliciously indulgent.


I am pleased as punch to report that, if you're a fan of the classic title (or Rearmed), GRIN's Bionic Commando is the remake you hope it will be.

The gameplay is compellingly deep, particularly when it comes to use of the bionic arm for traversal. The platforming gameplay is front-and center, but its application to combat is just plain fun. Bionic Commando finds the sweet spot of gaming where challenge and skill, together, just sing.

After a few hours with Bionic Commando I spent time with other "better" games, but as I played I found myself longing to return.

To jump. To swing. To feel the wind in my virtual dreads.

Bionic Commando succeeds so well because of all the things it quite consciously chooses not to be. It's not a clone of anything. It doesn't try to shoehorn in any mechanics or features that have been mastered by other games with proven profitability for the sake of more bullet points on a features list - it has its own objective, its own identity - and if you let it be what it is, you'll find a very unique, very fun game.


THE GOOD
-reverent of the classic, without being constrained by it
-occasionally impressive art direction and level design
-great skill-based platforming
-it's awesome when you interrupt the final boss's soliloquy with a button press that makes Spencer shout "would you shut the fuck up?!"
-big, frantic, thrilling combat
-great music
-it was TEN DOLLARS AT BEST BUY
-it's precisely the game I wanted it to be
-very challenging on the harder difficulty
-awesome ending
-an ultra-cheesy story

THE BAD
-an ultra-cheesy story
-you're taught how to use moves, but then you can't use 'em
-murderous invisible walls
-merely good enough, in terms of graphics
-pfft, it's hardly triple-A

THE VERDICT
A solid game that rates off the scales on the Fun-O-Meter.

Beware of Romans bearing links.


The other day when I was reading back posts of the site, I came across a spammer linking to like, thirty different websites. Deleted that.

Yesterday, on the front page (on the Aminomo article) someone who may or may not have been a spammer linked to a website that Firefox refused to tell me was safe. Deleted that too.

The solution to this issue may be using a captcha barrier on my comments. To me, that seems like an extra hurdle to communication - and I've little interest in inflicting it on you fine folks, so I won't - but that leaves this site more vulnerable to douches who may post a comment with a link in it that may seem safe to click, but ends with your beloved computer being sodomized by digital dickwolves.

Now, if you're reading this blog, you are at least somewhat tech-savvy. You likely have some sort of gaming console, chances are good you're reading this on a computer - an object you have been familiar with since shortly after you learned to toddle - and you're smart enough not to click on any suspicious goddamned links.

But just to be on the safe side, if a strange commenter puts up a link to a site you're unfamiliar with - and I haven't deleted it yet - don't bloody click on it.

Penny Arcade + Team Fortess 2 + Sam & Max + Strong Bad = ?


What is it? Who cares! All it needs is zombies (and Zelda) and it will be a perfect storm of froth-inducing geekgasm. Right now, the above image from this teaser trailer is all we've got.

A teensy taste of Catherine info.


This time from Famitsu 360, we get a mere modicum of additional info on Atlus's upcoming game:
  • it's been in development for two years
  • the game is fully voiced
  • multiple endings
  • should be about twenty hours long
  • there are alternate difficulty settings, but we don't know if they will effect the story or not.
And it's due out this Winter. In Japan, at least.

Wouldn't it be awesome if there was a simultaneous NA release? That won't happen.

Friday, August 27, 2010

What is Aminomo?


Sony Computer Entertainment Japan recently launched a new teaser site. Click the image above or here and you'll see a well-dressed man doing... something with yarn.

All we have right now is a time - about five days from now - and a name: Aminomo.

"Aminomo" is Japanese for "knitting" which, for me, recalls the immortal words of Zapp Brannigan:

"Mr. President,
what the hell?"

It's an official SCE site though, which suggests it's a project made by an internal Sony studio - specifically, Sony Studio Japan - which hasn't actually made a proper disc-release game since the tragically underrated Siren: Blood Curse.

Here's hoping that after a few sequels to Patapon and Echochrome, they're taking another crack at that whole triple-A thing.

Personal note.


It is August the 27th, my bigger brother's birthday. Happy birthday to him!

Hopefully, today is also the day (well, night) I buckle down and get that Bionic Commando review writ. I must attain my dream of writing four reviews in a single month!

I also think I'm this close to forming a final opinion on Shank, so we may just shatter some records, here. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Metroid: Other M reviews.


Mixed but mostly positive. Dissenting views have a harder time forgiving the game for occasionally frustrating controls, but most positive reports say such troubles don't end up painting the overall experience one gets with Other M.

As I tend to do, let us consider Eurogamer's take - an 8/10 - annnd Eurogamer is down...

Hmph. Well, I won't be getting it either way. This fall is way too expensive as-is, and given that (thus far) my only true love on the Wii is the 2-D Muramasa, the only upcoming title I imagine could sway me to a purchase is Kirby's Epic Yarn.

Still - 8/10 from Eurogamer. Other M is in good company.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

In memorium: Satoshi Kon.

At 6:20am on Tuesday, August 24 2010, Satoshi Kon passed away from pancreatic cancer. He was 46. He was an illustrator, animator, writer, director and a singular artist.

Paprika

Best known for directing critically acclaimed feature films, Kon's all too short list of work is required reading for those with even a passing interest in the animation medium.
  • Perfect Blue (1998)
  • Millennium Actress (2001)
  • Tokyo Godfather (2003)
  • Paranoia Agent (2004)
  • Paprika (2006)
Perfect Blue

I was introduced to his work with Perfect Blue, a Hitchcockian psychological thriller. It was the first animated work I had ever seen that was more than just colourful, flashy entertainment for entertainment's sake. It is a film that wants to discuss things - it attempts to have a conversation with its audience the likes of which I had never seen.

It wasn't until years later that I discovered the rest of his catalog, and Paranoia Agent now has a place in my heart as the Best Anime Series Ever.

Paranoia Agent

After his death, a letter to his readers was posted on his behalf on his blog. It addresses that his final work, Yume-Miru Kikai (The Dream Machine) will be completed posthumously, and ends with these two sentences:
With feelings of gratitude for all that is good in this world, I put down my pen.

Well, I'll be leaving now.

Satoshi Kon

Costume Quest interview.

Not so much an interview as Double Fine CEO Tim Schafer and Costume Quest project lead Tasha Harris talking about the game while new footage plays. The problem with this video, I think, is that if you're a gamer who isn't familiar with Double Fine and Mr Schafer, you may come away with the opinion that these folks aren't very pumped about what they're doing - but those who are familiar will see Double Fine doing what it does best: The Weird Shit.

Stuff other devs wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole because it doesn't have proven profitability. Fun stuff.



The combat looks a bit simplistic - I do like that it's turn-based - but given that it uses a few mechanics that worked very well in the Penny Arcade Adventures titles, I'm certainly prepared to give it the benefit of the doubt.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Programmer promises PS3 parity, as opposed to previous product's presentation.


Platinum Games said that - unlike to Bayonetta (which they developed on PS3 before handing off to Sega for porting - and it really, really showed), Vanquish's development is leading on the PS3.

Over at platinumgames.com, Hideaki Nakata, boss of Vanquish’s PS3 engine "as well as overall engine tuning" says the basic goal of the engine was - as seen above - to be able to throw an unprecedented amount of stuff at the screen and still have it look good. He also addresses PS3/360 parity:
"While the Vanquish engine is based on work done on Bayonetta, it was for that reason that we had a lot of work to do changing things for this project. For instance, we completely rewrote the renderer, implementing a technique known as “deferred rendering.” I think the new renderer turned out quite well.

We also tuned the title so that if you play Vanquish on the PS3 or the Xbox 360 you should notice little to no differences. Even the developers on the Vanquish team have a hard time telling the two versions apart at a glance… So no matter which console you have, you have nothing to worry about!"

I dunno... I'm not sure if I believe him. To be honest, I'm still feeling a bit burned by Bayonetta.

So you're not gonna' preorder it?

What? That's crazy talk - of course I am.

Game Diary.


Shank, of course.

I'm really enjoying the game so far, but an hour or so in I'm also starting to get a sense that there's only so much that can be done with these mechanics. The presentation pushes it beyond that minor concern, and I rather look forward to getting back to it.

Speaking of which, excuse me.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

It's not wrong to hope.




On the one hand, it's a licensed game, and those suck. Except for that one Batman game, that one Spider-Man game, and that one Hulk game.

On the other hand, this preview article is rather positive. On a third hand, how often do previews inform you that a game is crap and you should steer clear?

It's not wrong of one to imagine, just for a moment, how lovely it would be to have a really great Bond game. At this point, however, let us direct Blood Stone to the periphery of our radars, where it runs less risk of eventually disappointing.

New Valkyria Chronicles 2 trailer!



One week to go! Also, Shank today! Yayyy!

Exclamation point!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Okay, we need to have a talk.

Last night, I was browsing through the blog's back catalog, lamenting typos and surprising myself with how many articles actually should've been put in the features page when I came across this. Names have been changed to protect the troubled:

This comment is in reference to Siren: Blood Curse, a title I listed among the ten best PS3 titles to date, and gushed voluminously over in its review - one of the first two reviews I ever wrote.

To this day, Blood Curse remains the best game nobody played on the PlayStation 3. This bothers the hell out of me. Here we have a unique, beautiful, challenging, smart entry in a genre that's been all but abandoned on the current generation, and nobody gives a crap. Occasionally, I wonder if I'm just crazy. Perhaps I'm trying to convince myself that it's brilliant.

The graphics won't knock your socks off, but the visual design and lighting engine is phenomenal.

Consider the state of the survival horror genre right now. What've we got?

No, no, no. I'm not talking about action-horror. I'm not talking about Dead Space or Condemned - I'm talking old-school survival horror. Y'know what we've got on the high-def consoles?
That's it. The knee-jerk response here is that Siren: Blood Curse is merely the least-crappy of three crappy games. But it ain't. It's got a respectable 78 metascore - and before you walk away, check out some of the reviews. Specifically, check out 1up and Eurogamer. Eurogamer is a famously stingy reviewer - they score everything about 10% lower than any other publication, and they gave Blood Curse an 8.

To put this in perspective, Eurogamer also gave titles like The Orange Box, Darksiders, Metal Gear Solid 3 and Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne 8s.

You haven't played survival horror until you've played Bella's levels.

So it's not just me trying to tell you this game is deserving of your dollar and - more importantly - your time. I'm not crazy. Blood Curse is wonderful.

I'm not going to rehash (what I consider to be) the best review I've ever written, but here's some excerpts:
"[Siren's shibito are] a smart, purposeful variation on the standard video game zombie. Somewhere between the classic, numb shamblers of Dead Rising and the super-charged rage junkies of Left 4 Dead, the shibito are infinitely creepier because they retain so much of what they were before. The creators know well that the closer a monster is to identifiably human, the more monstrous it becomes. They remember their routines, they remember who they were (are?), and worst of all they remember whom they love."
"...Siren actually does become more than the sum of its parts. A keen eye for detail and a thoughtful, measured approach to fear permeate the game. Themes of love and destiny drive the otherwise impenetrable narrative forward to a conclusion I can only describe as mind-bending. ... It's insane, and ultimately one of the smartest games I've played in years."
"It's beautiful, disturbing, thoughtful, stressful, and unfortunately it seems to have crept right past most gamers' notice."
Ugh, that ain't right.

If it's so superawesome, why have you heard so little about it? Why haven't your friends told you about it, why haven't you found the occasional used copy in your local GameStop?

Because it's a PSN game, and its demo sucks. Europe, Asia and Japan - where past Siren games did reasonably well - all got a disc release, but the original Siren (on PS2) bombed so badly in North America, SCEA decided to make Blood Curse one of its first PSN-only titles. It had no advertising, no sales numbers have ever been released, and because it was a nine gigabyte download at a time when PS3 hard drive space was at a premium, few were prepared to risk a forty dollar purchase.

This brings me back to my friend's comment.

Let me bold this. Let me bold this and put it in red text:

The demo sucks.

It shows the lighting engine and the basics of combat, but doesn't even begin to showcase what makes Blood Curse an incredible game. You don't get a sense of the game's amazing music, the wonderful variation of the levels, the experience the different protagonists provide, the stroke-inducing storyline or a real sense of the characters. It's awful. It's useless, except as an example of the game's (technically unimpressive) engine.

Here's the purpose that demo serves. Look at the demo, and ask yourself this question:
Do you want to play a game that sounds this good, even if, graphically, it looks like that demo?
That's it. One more time: that demo sucks.



Before I let you go, dear reader, I have a request. I've linked it three or so times so far, but if you haven't read it yet, read this review. I'd played through the game four or five times when I wrote that, and had more time to reflect on the title than with (almost) any other review I've ever written. That is - aside, perhaps, from Okami's - the best-informed review I've ever done.

If all of this hasn't piqued your interest, consider this equation:

survival horror
+
stealth gameplay
=
Siren.

If all this has piqued your interest, don't go to the PSN and buy Blood Curse.

Wait until October. They'll drop the price to thirty bucks.

Shank drops tomorrow!



I love this trailer! Brutally butchering all those mans will be much more satisfying with the context provided therein.

It feels like a moment and an eternity since my (inestimably intelligent, astoundingly handsome and utterly hilarious) little brother Matt pointed me towards a trailer for Shank. But now it's like... sixteen hours until Shank will be available on the PSN.

I cannot wait. I really need to get that Bionic Commando review up before I lose myself in gorgeously animated two-dimensional platformy violence.

New Vanquish trailer: preorder weapons.



It's all new footage, and it features a laser cannon. What more can you ask for? Not much, says I. Also, I'm glad this reminded me to preorder - this is one of those games that are left to the fans to support.

It's being published by Sega, after all - they couldn't publicize their way out of a paper bag. Look what happened to poor Valkyria Chronicles.

Rumor: Valkyria Chronicles 3.

NeoGAF mod duckroll posted a link to Japanese website today that seems to show Sega Corporation registering the domain valkyria3.jp. Naturally, no platforms are listed - but when Sega speaks about Valkyria Chronicles they have only ever mentioned the PSP and PS3.

Everyone's crossing their fingers for a return to the PS3, of course, but a game for the 3DS (or Wii, or PS3/360) is hardly out of the question.

But let us soothe ourselves. Let us not get excited. It's just a rumor. For now.

(Tokyo Games Show is less than a month away.)

Vanquish demo August 31st in North America.


Two days before the demo drops in Japan. That's eight days from now. That's the day Valkyria Chronicles 2 arrives!

That will be a good day.

DeathSpank sequel! ...next month?!

Yep. September 21st.

"A long time ago, nine mystical thongs were planned to bring balance and harmony to the universe, but when marketing got in the way, only six thongs were produced, and the result was disastrous. Granting great power to those who wear them, the thongs corrupted all those they touched—except DeathSpank. DeathSpank must find all six thongs and destroy them once and for all."


DeathSpank: Thongs of Virtue was developed side-by side with the first game, but has had more time in development. For fans of the series, this means a campaign that is promised to be 50% longer.

Those of us who finished the original saw the terrible world DeathSpank finds himself in at the end of the story, which promises a greater array of projectile weapons. Also promised is a greater emphasis on puzzles this time around.

Thongs of Virtue will cost the same as the original - fifteen smackers.